Effect of prolonged sitting and breaks in sitting time on endothelial function

Saurabh S. Thosar, Sylvanna L. Bielko, Kieren J. Mather, Jeanne D. Johnston, Janet P. Wallace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Scopus citations


Sitting time (ST) is associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors, whereas breaking ST has been reported to be beneficial for reducing cardiovascular risk. Purpose: The objective of this study is to examine the effects of breaking ST on superficial femoral artery (SFA) endothelial function. Hypotheses: 1) Prolonged sitting would induce endothelial dysfunction and changes in shear forces, and 2) breaking ST with brief periods of activity would prevent attenuation in endothelial function. Methods: Twelve nonobese men (24.2 T 4.2 yr) participated in two randomized 3-h sitting trials. In the sitting (SIT) trial, subjects were seated on a firmly cushioned chair for 3 h without moving their lower extremities. In the breaking ST trial (ACT), subjects sat similar to the SIT trial but walked on a treadmill for 5 min at 2 mph at 30 min, 1 h 30 min, and 2 h 30 min during the sitting interval. SFA flow-mediated dilation (FMD) was assessed at baseline, 1 h, 2 h, and 3 h in each trial. Statistical analyses were performed using dependent variables SFA FMD and shear rates. Significance was set at P ≤ 0.05. Results: In the SIT trial, there was a significant decline in SFA FMD from baseline to 3 h (baseline, 4.72% × 3.78%; 1 h, 0.52% × 0.85%; 2 h, 1.66% × 1.11%; 3 h, 2.2% × 2.15; P < 0.05 by ANOVA) accompanied by a decline in mean shear rate and antegrade shear rate but no difference in shear rate (area under the curve). By two-way repeatedmeasures ANOVA, ACT prevented the sitting-induced decline in FMD (baseline, 4.5% × 2.3%; 1 h, 5.04% × 2.85%; 2 h, 5.28% × 5.05%; 3 h, 6.9% × 4.5%) along with no decline in shear rates. Conclusion: Three hours of sitting resulted in a significant impairment in shear rate and SFA FMD. When light activity breaks were introduced hourly during sitting, the decline in FMD was prevented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)843-849
Number of pages7
JournalMedicine and science in sports and exercise
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 25 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • flow-mediated dilation
  • intermittent activity
  • low shear rate
  • sedentary activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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